We're heading into the biggest party week of the year, when friends get together to celebrate surviving a year full of challenges and changes -- usually with more than one serving of alcohol.
So we hope you'll keep a few statistics in mind.
Every 30 minutes, someone dies in an alcohol-related crash. Think about it: Every 30 minutes. And on even a normal weekend night -- one in four drivers has been drinking. Think about that. Then ask yourself how many drivers will be drunk on New Year's Eve. Will that include you?
Now, that's downright sobering.
And we're not just talking about the three drinks in an hour it takes to get to the legal limit of .08. Even one or two drinks gets you to a .02 blood alcohol level, which affects vision, concentration and reaction times.
Drunk drivers account for one third of all fatal crashes and some alcohol was involved in 40 percent of traffic deaths, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. It's even worse in Arizona, where last year alcohol accounted for 45 percent of the 1,288 car crash fatalities. The tragic and needless toll invariably rises during the holidays.
So right now while you're thinking straight, resolve to take the steps that will prevent you from contributing to these grim statistics.
If you feel you might drink too much, make sure you have a friendly designated driver to get you home. If you don't, just call a cab or sober friend or family member to get you home. Odds are, they'll thank you for letting them keep you safe.
Why take a chance you'll ruin your life, and the life of others, forever? We all face risks every day of our lives, but when it comes to drinking and driving, is the risk really worth the reward? Go ahead and party, but take steps to make sure you get home safely.
If you're out and a friend is drinking, be a real friend and don't let them drive home, not even around the block. Take the keys and don't let them leave your sight. They'll thank you for it later.
Remember, impaired driving is no accident -- nor is it a victimless crime. It is one of America's deadliest problems. And it is against the law.
These tips for drinking in moderation come from various public Web sites.
- Know your limit. Most people find that they can consume one drink per hour without any ill effects.
- Eat food while you drink. Food, especially high protein food such as meat, cheese and peanuts, will help slow the absorption of alcohol into your body.
- Sip your drink. If you gulp a drink, you can't savor its flavors and aromas.
- Don't participate in "chugging" contests or other drinking games.
- Accept a drink only when you really want one. If someone tries to force a drink on you, ask for a non-alcoholic beverage instead. If that doesn't work, "lose" your drink by setting it down somewhere and leaving it.
Skip a drink now and then. Having a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones will help keep your blood alcohol content level down, as does spacing out your alcoholic drinks.
Keep active; don't just sit around and drink. If you stay active, you'll drink less and keep track of the effects of the alcohol.
Beware of unfamiliar drinks. Some drinks, such as zombies and other fruit drinks, can have undetectable levels of alcohol, which makes it difficult to space them properly.
Use alcohol carefully in conjunction with pharmaceuticals. Ask your physician or pharmacist about any precautions or prohibitions and follow that advice.
A glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of whiskey or other distilled spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol and are all the same to a Breathalyzer. A standard drink is a 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink).
But if the chance you'll kill yourself, loved ones -- or even some innocent bystander doesn't daunt you, consider the toll you'll pay if you get caught -- including mandatory jail time, thousands of dollars in fines and court fees, a driver's license suspension, vehicle impoundment, a big jump in your insurance rates and other costs.
So don't let your year end in arrest -- or something far worse.
And don't be one of the 5,200 Arizona drivers killed last year because some fool thought he was OK to drive.
Find a safe way home.